A few months ago I was approached by Murton Trust about taking my workshops to their new tipi area on their nature reserve. The idea of taking my workshops there was just too perfect!! At Explore Play Create, the opportunity to engage with and explore the natural environment has always been at the forefront of our ethos – and Murton is just up the road from our HQ! As a family we are frequent visitors to Murton – and the nature reserve is a particular favourite.

As a painter who uses the landscape as inspiration, it was the obvious starting point for my workshops – and the opportunity to share some of my techniques with the young creatives just seemed the most natural thing to do. To start off the workshop, I introduced a number of mark-making techniques using a variety of tools and materials. We did this on large pieces of paper and the children worked collaboratively – this is a tried and tested method and a fantastic ice breaker – as well as encouraging the children to share the making. The young creatives tried their hand at layering paint, scratching, using rollers, brushes, sponges, stencils, clay tools, printing and many other different ways of applying and distressing the paint.

We also looked at couple of artists for inspiration – I showed the children work by artists Clair Bremner and Laura Horn  – their attention was brought the bold areas of colour, the different ways the paint and been applied and the variety of marks and patterns which had been added to the paintings.

After the children had all had the opportunity to play with as many different techniques as they wanted to we took ourselves off for an explore into the nature reserve. Armed with sketchbooks, paper, pencils and magnifying glasses, we walked, talked and observed. We stopped off at a number of places so the children had the opportunity to make field notes and record their findings. They were encouraged to note as many patterns, shapes and textures they could find. I talked them through a few drawing processes such as continuous line drawing and shadow drawing. We finally spent a good amount of time observing one of the magnificent views over the nature reserve towards the one of the lochs and wetlands areas. I drew their attention to such features as the shape of the tree line as it met the sky, the different shades of green across the landscape, the different textures visible in the foreground and background and the flashes of colour which appeared around the water’s edge and in the grasses.

With notebooks and imaginations filled with ideas we went back to paint at the tipi area. The young creatives were encouraged to combine their mark-making practice with the ideas they had just observed and drawn. Each child was given a prepared piece of board so that they could use the firm surface to layer, scrape and distress the painting. The children were utterly engrossed for the remained of the workshop. Each one bravely using different techniques to apply the paint, using the skills they had learned earlier in the workshop. During a well earned break, we left the landscapes out in the sun to dry, which allowed the children to work back onto the dry paintings adding textures, patterns and details with Posca Pens. The results were simply stunning – each young creative making a beautifully executed landscape full of interesting marks, patters and textures.

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